July 27-29, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Genesis 18:20-32
“LEARN TO PRAY!”
1. By looking at the One prayed to.
2. By looking at one who prayed.
Genesis 18:20-32 (NIV 1984) “Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." 22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it." 29 Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?" He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it." 30 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." 31 Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it." 32 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
“So, how’s your prayer life?” That was the question that greeted your pastors every time we visited Donald Kramer. Some of you might remember him. He’s in heaven now. Every time. Every visit. Immediately upon entering his home. “How’s your prayer life?” Donald had time on his hands and he used it to pray. His question was meant to encourage his pastors to pray as well. I have to tell you sometimes it felt like one of those doctor questions. You know, when you go to the doctor’s office and they ask you, “How often do you exercise each week? How many fruits and vegetable do you eat daily?” If you had a good week you don’t mind but if not… it kind makes you feel a little guilty. So how’s your prayer life? If you had a good week and didn’t let yourself get distracted you don’t mind at all. But if not the question makes you feel kind of guilty. God did not give us the gift of prayer to make us feel guilty. He gave it as a blessing, a meaningful way for us to talk to Him and make a difference in the lives of others and ourselves. As you heard in the Gospel reading, Jesus prayed. His disciples saw Him praying. They wanted to know how to pray. So do we. Join me then in learning to pray.
First let’s take a look at the One we get to pray to. “Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." 22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.” What do we learn about God here? First that He is merciful. You have to remember the whole context of God’s visit to Abraham. He had come with the two angels in human form to announce to the “too old for having children Abraham and Sarah” that they would have a son next year. Not just any son, the son of the Promise. Tied to God’s promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah was the promise of God’s one and only Son who would come to save people from their sins. God is merciful He’s also just. Sodom and Gomorrah. Their sin was so grievous that God was stepping outside of His normal way of working to bring judgment and punishment. Defiance of God’s holy will was at an all time high. God is clear. God gave sex to be a blessing between one man and one woman once they are married. Any other use of sex is sin. In Sodom and Gomorrah men were having sex with men. This is sin. And while God is merciful He will not tolerate ongoing willful sin. And here we need to remember to look at ourselves. Is there some ongoing willful sin in our lives? It’s not just gay sex that angers God. It also angers him when a man and a woman are not married and are having sex. Pick your commandment. Sin is sin. God is just. He also makes Himself accessible. Does God really need to go down to investigate what’s going on? Really, the one who already knows the hearts and minds of all mankind? No, His purpose was to give Abraham an opportunity to pray. God desires to be approached. He also doesn’t get exasperated with His children. “What if there are 50? What if there are 45? What if there are only 40? What if there are 30? What if there are 20? What if there are 10?” OK, if Jamie and Anna are asking me if they can do something or have something after about the third time that’s it. I said what I said. This human father gets fed up. But our heavenly Father doesn’t. He loves to be asked. Look at the one prayed to. He is merciful and just. He is accessible and loves to be prayed to. He is patient and enduring.
How about the one who prayed? What can we learn about praying by focusing our attention on Abraham. First we see he is caring. “Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” Abraham is praying for others. He’s not asking God to overlook sin. Abraham’s nephew Lot lived there with his family. Abraham hopes there are others there who believed and trusted in the Savior God. That’s what it means to be righteous. No one is righteous based on their own actions. Righteousness only comes through faith in the Savior. Secondly Abraham is humble. "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty?” Abraham had it right. God is God and he was not. He was not going to tell God what to do. He was a sinner. He was a beggar before God. He would humbly ask. Thirdly we see persistent prayer that relies on God’s mercy. 50. 45. 40. 30. 20. 10.
So how’s your prayer life? More importantly how is it going to be? Before we talk about that there are two other points to hold on to from this part of God’s Word. First is that the righteous do make a difference. For the sake of 10 believers God would have spared all the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember that when you are getting discouraged about the future of our country. Secondly, God answers prayers in a better way than we could imagine. If God had answered Abraham’s prayer the way he prayed it Lot and his family would have been destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah. But God had a better answer. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire which sadly is nothing compared to the fires of hell that those who reject Jesus condemn themselves to. But the Lord also sent the two angels to rescue Lot and all of his family who would listen. It’s great to have a God who knows better than we do!
So how’s your prayer life going to be? No guilt. Just blessings. God is not unfair. He is just. But He is first and foremost merciful. He does not treat His children as their sins deserve but has forgiven us for Jesus sake. He is totally accessible and loves to be prayed to. There is no place on earth where we can’t talk to God. At home. At work. In the car. At the mall. On the city streets. In a hospital bed. In our own bed. God is there to hear. He listens attentively. God has no spell checker or grammar checker. He’s always there for you. So be a child of Abraham. The Bible calls all those who believe the promises of God children of Abraham. He believed in the Savior who would come. We believe in the Savior who has come and know His name is Jesus. Let’s be children of Abraham in our prayer lives as well. Praying humbly, caring for others and practicing persistent prayer that relies on God’s mercy. He’ll give the best answer. You can count on it! Amen.